The island country of Montserrat, located in the Caribbean Sea to the southeast of Puerto Rico, is a self-governing British overseas territory known as the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean.” Its name belies a severe and destructive geologic history.
Most recently, starting in July 1995 and continuing to 2003, Montserrat endured numerous volcanic eruptions that resulted in destruction and abandonment of its capital city, Plymouth, of its airports and seaports, and much of its agricultural land. In addition, two-thirds of its 12,000 original inhabitants fled abroad. Only a relatively small number of the citizens have returned to the island in recent years because of inadequate housing and because today only the northern one third of the island is habitable.
While the island was “discovered” and named by Christopher Columbus during his 1493 voyage, the first European settlers on the island were English and Irish colonists who moved over to Montserrat from St. Kitts in 1632. African slaves were brought in to work the sugar plantations established by those colonists. The British and French fought over the island for most of the 18th century, but by 1783 it was recognized as a British possession.
Most of the people of Montserrat are descended from African slaves. The official language is English, while the most common tongue is Montserrat Creole English (also known as Antigua & Barbuda Creole English or Leeward Caribbean Creole English).
The majority of the population claim to be Christians, adhering to one of several Protestant church denominations (Anglican, Methodist, Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist and others), as well as to Roman Catholicism.